Jim Taylor's Columns - 'Soft Edges' and 'Sharp Edges'

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Published on Wednesday, June 28, 2017

If a stranger happened by

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Canada will be 150 years old this Saturday. I was asked by the organizers of the Canada Day celebrations to put together a historical presentation about the churches of Lake Country. Eleven, by my count, for a community of 14,000.

            So, last Tuesday morning, I drove around to all the current churches, to take pictures. I already had pictures of the earlier churches, thanks to the Lake Country Museum’s archives.

            There’s some uncertainty about the community’s first church.

            The first church was probably St. Paul’s Presbyterian, in Okanagan Centre, around 1910.

            Methodists claim to have held outdoor services in Oyama as early as 1905. But their first church wasn’t built until 1918.  It was commonly known as the “Union Church” because several groups (including the Anglicans) used it for worship services.


Lofty ambitions

            Anglican Bishop Acton Sillitoe visited the Okanagan in 1880, (after a 10-day journey with packhorses through the Coast Mountains from New Westminster) and declared it ripe for an Anglican mission. But it took another 30 years before an Anglican priest, Owen Buckeley, established the first Anglican parish, in Okanagan Centre. With two hotels, a store, a butcher shop, a Chinese laundry, a packinghouse, a cannery, and a red-light district, Okanagan Centre was a boom town.

            Buckeley had ambitious dreams; he wanted a bigger and more impressive church than the little Presbyterian building already there. But before construction could start, World War One pre-empted most of the community’s able-bodied builders. All Saints Anglican lapsed into disrepair and was eventually sold for $1.

            St. Mary’s Anglican, in Oyama, didn’t get built until 1929: a second Anglican church followed two years later, St. Margaret’s in Winfield.

            By then the Presbyterian church in Okanagan Centre, the church in the community hall in Winfield, and the Methodist church in Oyama, had all become part of the new United Church of Canada.

            Evangelical churches didn’t show up until after World War II. That was also when Roman Catholics built St. Edward’s, in Winfield valley bottom, in 1949.

            Both St. Edward’s and St. Margaret’s Anglican later succumbed to highway expansion. St. Margaret’s was demolished 1987; St. Edward’s was sold to a private owner, who moved it across the valley in 1992 for use as an artist’s studio.


Dead zone

            To put all that history into perspective, I wanted to match the old photos with the current buildings.

            On Tuesday mornings, I discovered, Lake Country is a religious dead zone. Locked doors. Empty parking lots. Closed gates. Silence…

            I don’t know what I expected. Around-the-clock prayer circles? Non-stop musical jam sessions? Lineups for soup kitchens? Scheduled study sessions?

            Granted, even Kelowna shopping malls consider Tuesday a slow day. But only one of the notice boards even advertised any activity beyond the weekly worship service.

            And only one church had any visible activity. I’m proud to say it was my own United Church. The parking lot had vehicles constantly coming and going. Not for the church itself, I admit. For the Thrift Shop. Which is also a form of ministry.

            I know that other churches have members are active in the community, doing the churches’ work. But a stranger would never know that from seeing silent buildings on a Tuesday morning.


Copyright © 2017 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups, and links from other blogs, welcomed; all other rights reserved.

                  To comment on this column, write jimt@quixotic.ca





I yielded, last week, to my obsession with words, and wrote about how one becomes proficient in a language, any language – indeed, any means of communication.


Angelica Offenwanger supplemented my thoughts: “As a fledgling editor, veteran reader, and former ESL student, your article caught my attention. I enjoyed what you had to say, and fully agree with it.

            “Just one little quibble with the logic of your argument (not with the point you're making, just the argument): you say that to aim for Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hours in reading aloud would be ridiculous. But that's a little bit of a case of apples and oranges. If one spent 10,000 hrs reading out loud, one would undoubtedly became a champion out-loud-reader. But that's not what you're aiming for -- you're aiming for acquisition of language skill. And in that, actually, language learners do invest their 10,000 hrs before they get good. Just think of little kids -- they're completely immersed in language for years, absorbing the rules (and pronunciation) of the language, before they become fully proficient speakers.

            “What you're recommending with the read-out-loud technique is a form of language immersion (and a really good one), but it's only one of the many available options -- there's TV, conversations, the internet, song lyrics, etc. And with all of those together, a learner can easily put in 10,000 hrs over the course of a few years.

            “Of course, as you're saying, reading is one of the most efficient and effective, not to mention pleasurable, of those options. Bring on the library cards!”


I had mentioned having a shelf-full of books to support one’s own opinion. Tom Watson added, “Another helpful little authoritative book is ‘Elements of Style’ by Strunk and White. However, as you indicate in your closing paragraph, the best way to truly learn something is to immerse yourself in it until it becomes natural. The late Heinz Guenther, theological professor at Emmanuel College in Toronto, knew seven languages and spoke all fluently. Those languages included, English, German, Japanese and Korean. Heinz claimed that you only truly knew a language when you could think in it directly without having to flip back and forth translating into your native tongue to understand.”


Laurna Tallman commented on two columns: “As I read your column on English usage and the round table of ‘Your Turn’ comments on evolutionary theory, I am grateful again for the grounding in science and in the precise use of language I received from my scientist father and teacher mother. In his many roles as a churchman, Dad usually would get around to explaining how the first Creation story in the Bible meshes so well with what is known about the origins of the universe. ‘And the evening and the morning were the first day day’ is a formulaeic phrase equivalent to ‘and that was Day [Step] One.’ No one with any common sense 6,000 years ago or today would take that phrase literally.

            “In family discussions, the dictionary and Fowler's English Usage frequently were consulted. In their day, use of language was a social indicator and social ladder, although Dad's scientific approach to the Bible led to his being asked to leave one or two churches. The foundation they gave me in grammar, usage, and the scientific method was instrumental in my analysis of every subject I studied in university. English literature [offered more help] than psychology for understanding, when I analyzed Daniel's changing sentence structure as he recovered from schizophrenia.”

            Laurna then referred to Don Schau’s letter about Genesis: “Don might like to know that the second Creation story touches on neurological differences between males and females, gender relationships, the capacity for belief, self-control and rationalization in human psychology, and the ways differences in cerebral integration affect viewpoints, personal relationships, and the interaction between people and God… Comparisons of differences between the behaviour of the archetypal primitives Adam and Eve and their family, and of the archetypal holy family of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus (and His siblings, excepting dogmatic Catholics) are important for understanding the development of social and spiritual ideals among the Jews over that long period in history.”


Frieda Hogg also referred back to the evolution column, and the comments on it: “May I suggest that Evolution is God's way of ‘Creation’?  Makes more sense to me than the biblical version of creation.  The Bible says God is ‘from everlasting to everlasting’, in that case there has been time for evolution/creation to happen.”






Almost 30 years ago, my friend and protégé Mike Schwartzentruber had a double lung transplant. For six months, his body tried to reject the lungs that offered him new life. I wrote this paraphrase of Psalm 13 for him.


How long, O Lord, must I lie here?

Will you ignore me forever?

How long must I struggle along on my own?

My body aches all over;

My own organs war against me.

Will you let them win?

How long can I keep up this battle?

How long can I keep on fighting?


Listen to me, God!

In the dead of night, answer me!

Or let me die.

Then my illness can rejoice,

for it has triumphed over me;

It has killed both of us.


Ah, but I trust you, Lord.

Whatever happens, I know

that I am safe in your love.

There is nothing more I could ask, living or dead.

So I will praise you, whatever happens.



For paraphrases of most of the psalms used by the Revised Common Lectionary, you can order my book Everyday Psalms from Wood Lake Publishing, info@woodlake.com.





Ralph Milton most recent project, Sing Hallelujah -- the world’s first video hymnal -- consists of 100 popular hymns, both new and old, on five DVDs that can be played using a standard DVD player and TV screen, for use in congregations who lack skilled musicians to play piano or organ. More details at www.singhallelujah.ca

Isabel Gibson's thoughtful and well-written blog, www.traditionaliconoclast.com

Wayne Irwin's "Churchweb Canada," an inexpensive service for any congregation wanting to develop a web presence, with free consultation. <http://www.churchwebcanada.ca>

Alva Wood's satiric stories about incompetent bureaucrats and prejudiced attitudes in a small town are not particularly religious, but they are fun; write alvawood@gmail.com to get onto her mailing list.

Tom Watson writes a weekly blog called “The View from Grandpa Tom’s Balcony” -- ruminations on various subjects, and feedback from Tom’s readers. Write him at twatson@sentex.net






If you want to comment on something, send a message directly to me, jimt@quixotic.ca.

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                  My webpage is up and running again -- thanks to Wayne Irwin and ChurchWeb Canada. You can now access current columns and about five years of archives at http://quixotic.ca

                  I write a second column each Sunday called Sharp Edges, which tends to be somewhat more cutting about social and justice issues. To sign up for Sharp Edges, write to me directly, jimt@quixotic.ca, or send a note to sharpedges-subscribe@lists.quixotic.ca






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